Government is seeking public input on proposed reforms that would make divorces and financial relief stemming from divorces easier to obtain.
The Law Reform Commission released a summary of the proposed changes, as well as three draft bills: the Matrimonial Causes Bill 2018, the Maintenance Bill 2018, and the Family Property (Rights of Spouses) Bill 2018.
The laws cover a wide range of public reforms.
The Matrimonial Causes Bill would replace legislation originally enacted in 1976. Among the proposed changes would be creating no-fault divorces, recognizing prenuptial agreements, and creating the power for Cayman courts to order financial relief after separations and divorces in other jurisdictions.
The Maintenance Bill would introduce equality for maintenance of spouses (men would be able to apply for maintenance), repeal references to “illegitimacy,” and widens the penalty for non-payment of maintenance. The new bill would also no longer deal with the maintenance of children since that issue has been covered since 2012 by the Children Law.
Finally, the Family Property (Rights of Spouses) Bill establishes rules relating to the division of property between spouses upon the breakdown of a marriage or cohabitation. These rules set out the matters that the court must consider in an application for division of property, including the age of each spouse, the duration of the marriage or cohabitation, the standard of living the family enjoyed before the breakdown of the relationship, and whether there is a family home.
Similar reforms were originally recommended in a Law Reform Commission report in 2013, but were never enacted.
“One of the principal aims of modern divorce legislation is to ensure that when a marriage has broken down and parties have no intention of trying to fix such marriage, the process of dissolving the marital partnership should be as free of acrimony as possible,” the report states. “Naturally, this depends on the personality of the parties and the circumstances leading to the breakdown, but legislation should ensure that this difficult time is made less painful. One of the legislative responses to this was to move away from fault-based divorce and provide for one ground of divorce, i.e., irretrievable breakdown.”
The public can submit feedback to the proposals by June 8 by writing to Law Reform Commission Director Cheryl Neblett at [email protected]